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E. Theological and Philosophical Implications for Science: An Interaction Model of Theology and Science

A major challenge continues to be whether science and theology be genuinely interactive in a creative and constructive sense, each offering something of intellectual value to the other although in different ways, or is the theological role one of mere hermeneutics? Interactions have occurred in the rise of modern science with both creative and distortive consequences, as feminists, historians and sociologists of knowledge are showing (see Parts IIIA and F); moreover, diverse ‘external’ factors continue to play at least a peripheral role in theory formation and theory choice in contemporary science.Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991); James T. Cushing, Quantum Mechanics: Historical...But can the influence of external factors be constructive and beneficial? I wish to focus on theology in this role and explore the possibility that it can, at least in some cases, lead to creative differences in future scientific research which both science would find beneficial as judged by it own, independent standards, such as empirical adequacy, scope, fruitfulness, and so on.

My proposal combines the holist account of the hierarchy of the sciences offered by Peacocke and Murphy with Barbour’s analogy between theological and scientific methodologies (see Part IB)The structure of the hierarchy is contested, as we have already seen. Compare for example Peacocke with Murphy and Ellis.I also suggest we view theology as interacting with each discipline in the hierarchy, and not just with ethics, ecology, or the humanities in general. Thus theology can interact with physics, and with biology (and thus indirectly with physics as it is layered into biology), and so on. For simplicity here I will focus on physics, cosmology and theology. The result is striking: as Murphy has suggested,For a recent example, see Nancey Murphy, "Postmodern Apologetics, or Why Theologians must Pay Attention to Science," in Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue, ed. W. Mark Richardson...we can identify a number of distinct ‘paths’ between theology and physics and cosmology (See Figure 1). Some moving upwards as constraints by science on theology, others moving downwards as suggestive input and influences from theology to science,By "influence" I do not mean that theology should be granted a dogmatic or authoritative role vis-a-vis science, or vice verse. Quite the contrary, the interaction should be an open intellectual... I believe that each represents what has actually happened both historically and in recent and ongoing research, though often unacknowledged. By reflecting on all eight explicitly and together, however, we might discern something about the interaction as a whole which we have not appreciated by taking each path separately as we have in the past. The overall perspective might also tell us something about ‘theology and science’ in the future.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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